Area Codes -- Tijuana, 664; Rosarito Beach, 661; Ensenada, 646; Mulegé and Santa Rosalía, 615; Loreto, 613; La Paz, Todos Santos, and West Cape, 612; Los Cabos and East Cape, 624.
Business Hours -- In general, businesses in larger cities are open between 9am and 7pm; in smaller towns many close between 2 and 4pm. Most close on Sunday. In resort areas it is common to find stores open at least in the mornings on Sunday, and for shops to stay open late, often until 8pm or even 10pm. Bank hours are Monday through Friday from 9 or 9:30am to anywhere between 3 and 7pm. Increasingly, banks open on Saturday for at least a half-day.
Doctors -- Any English-speaking consulate staff in Mexico can provide a list of area doctors who speak English. If you get sick in Mexico, consider asking your hotel concierge to recommend a local doctor -- even his or her own. You can also try the emergency room at a local hospital or urgent care facility. Many hospitals also have walk-in clinics for emergency cases that are not life threatening; you may not get immediate attention, but you won't pay emergency room prices.
Most resorts have a doctor on staff, and Amerimed (www.amerimed.com.mx), runs 24-hour, American-standards clinics with bilingual physicians and emergency air-evacuation services in San José del Cabo (tel. 624/105-8550), Cabo San Lucas (tel. 624/105-8500), and Los Barriles (tel. 624/141-0797); it also accepts major credit cards.
You may have to pay all medical costs upfront and be reimbursed later. Before leaving home, find out what medical services your health insurance covers. To protect yourself, consider buying medical travel insurance.
Drinking & Drug Laws -- The legal age for purchase and consumption of alcoholic beverages is 18. Do not carry open containers of alcohol in your car or any public area that isn't zoned for alcohol consumption. The police can and will fine you on the spot.
In the shadow of a raging drug war, in 2009 Mexico decriminalized possession of small amounts of drugs including marijuana and cocaine. However, buying, selling, importing and exporting drugs remains illegal, and violators face stiff fines and imprisonment in a tangled and backlogged legal system that presumes guilt before innocence.
Driving Rules -- As at home, Mexican law requires you to wear a seat belt and not use your cellphone while driving. Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is both unwise and illegal.
Electricity -- Like the U.S. and Canada, Mexico uses 110-120 volts AC (60 cycles), compared to 220-240 volts AC (50 cycles) in most of Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. Wall outlets are exactly the same as in the United States and Canada.
Embassies & Consulates -- They can give you the name of a doctor, tell you how to get married in Mexico, and replace your passport, but sadly, your embassy will not get you out of a Mexican jail or fly you home when you run out of money. Most countries have an embassy in Mexico City, and many have consular offices or representatives in Los Cabos or Tijuana.
The Embassy of the United States in Mexico City is at Paseo de la Reforma 305, Col. Polanco, next to the Sheraton at the corner of Río Danubio (tel. 55/5080-2000); hours are Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 5:30pm. Visit www.usembassy-mexico.gov for information related to U.S. Embassy services. In Baja, there is a U.S. Consulate in Tijuana (Av. Tapachula 96; tel. 664/622-7400; http://tijuana.usconsulate.gov) and a consular agency in Cabo San Lucas (Bl. Marina C-4 in Plaza Nautica; tel. 624/143-3566).
The Embassy of Australia in Mexico City is at Rubén Darío 55, Col. Polanco (tel. 55/1101-2200; www.mexico.embassy.gov.au). It's open Monday through Thursday from 9:30am to 1pm.
The Embassy of Canada in Mexico City is at Schiller 529, Col. Polanco (tel. 55/5724-7900, or for emergencies 01-800/706-2900); it's open Monday through Friday from 9am to 1pm and 2 to 5pm. In Baja, there is a Canadian consulate in Tijuana (German Gedovius 10411-101; tel. 664/684-0461) and a consular agency in San José del Cabo (Plaza José Green, Bl. Mijares; tel. 624/142-4333).
The Embassy of New Zealand in Mexico City is at Jaime Balmes 8, 4th Floor, Col. Los Morales, Polanco (tel. 55/5283-9460; www.nzembassy.com/mexico). It's open Monday through Thursday from 8:30am to 2pm and 3 to 5:30pm, and Friday from 8:30am to 2pm.
The Embassy of the United Kingdom in Mexico City is at Río Lerma 71, Col. Cuauhtémoc (tel. 55/5207-2089 or 5242-8500; http://ukinmexico.fco.gov.uk). It's open Monday through Thursday from 8am to 4pm and Friday from 8am to 1:30pm. There's a British Honorary Consulate in Tijuana (Bl. Salinas 1800, Fracc. Aviación; tel. 664/686-5320) and Cabo San Lucas (Bl. Paseo de la Marina Lote 7a; tel. 624/173-9500).
The Embassy of Ireland in Mexico City is at Cda. Bl. Manuel Avila Camacho 76, 3rd Floor, Col. Lomas de Chapultepec (tel. 55/5520-5803; http://irishembassy.com.mx). It's open Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm.
Emergencies -- In case of emergency, dial tel. 066 from any phone within Mexico; for medical emergencies tel. 065 works as well. You should also contact the closest consular office in case of an emergency. If you break down on the highway, call the Green Angels at tel. 078 for free English-language repairs and towing.
Insurance -- For information on traveler's insurance, trip cancellation insurance, and medical insurance while traveling, visit www.frommers.com/planning.
Language -- As is the rest of Mexico, Los Cabos and Baja are Spanish-speaking. However, English is widely spoken by people who work in the tourism industry and nearly everyone in Los Cabos and Tijuana.
Legal Aid -- If you behave yourself, the most legal trouble you're likely to get into is a flashing light in the rearview mirror. Pull over as you would at home, hand over your license, and pay your fine at the police station. Police officers may hint at making a deal, but keep in mind that bribing public officials, no matter how willing, is a crime. Sanborn's Car Insurance includes legal help if you're involved in an auto accident; for rental cars, contact your rental company.
The Mexican legal system is a mess, to put it mildly, and if you get into serious trouble, you'll need a lawyer. Contact your consulate for a list of local ones.
Mail -- Mexican postal service is reliable, if sometimes a bit slow. Postcards and letters cost 11.50 pesos to the U.S. and Canada, 13.50 pesos to the U.K., and 15 pesos to Australia and New Zealand. Post offices have an unmistakable shocking pink-and-green logo over the storefront, and post boxes are bulky and red, with slots for local and foreign mail. Send packages registered mail for a small surcharge; the tracking number is added security the package will arrive. For valuables or anything urgent, use an international shipping service like FedEx (tel. 800/900-1100) or DHL (tel. 55/5345-7000).
Newspapers & Magazines -- In Los Cabos, a number of local English-language papers are available at newsstands and cafes in places tourists frequent, including the monthly Los Cabos Magazine (www.loscabosguide.com), Los Cabos News, Destino Los Cabos, and the irreverent, entertaining biweekly Gringo Gazette (www.gringogazette.com) for Southern Baja. In Northern Baja, try the northern edition Gringo Gazette North (www.gringogazettenorth.com) and the venerable biweekly Baja Times (www.bajatimes.com). El Calendario (elcalendariodetodossantos.com) is a good monthly source for local events in Todos Santos, and the biweekly Baja Citizen (www.bajacitizen.com) covers local news and politics in La Paz. Los Cabos luxury resorts also frequently offer the New York Times to guests, either in a complete edition or a digest.
Packing -- Baja looks like a tropical paradise, but there's more variation in the climate than many people imagine. You'll do well to pack a light jacket or sweater for evenings, especially in the winter, and a windproof jacket and long pants for boat trips. Dress is casual everywhere with the exception of Los Cabos's very finest restaurants, and even there you'll fit right in with stylish resort wear. Men will almost never need a tie. Hikers should make sure to have good sturdy boots to protect against rocks and reptiles, and indeed anyone who ventures into the inland deserts should plan on wearing long pants and sleeves to protect against sun and cacti.
For more helpful information on packing for your trip, download our convenient Travel Tools app for your mobile device. Go to www.frommers.com/go/mobile and click on the Travel Tools icon.
Police -- In case of emergency, dial tel. 066 from any phone within Mexico. To report a non-emergency crime, dial tel. 089, or from the U.S. and Canada, tel. 866/201-5060 for English-speaking operators who can coordinate help.
Smoking -- Smoking is banned in all public buildings in Mexico. It's common and tolerated for smokers to puff away in patio areas of restaurants.
Taxes -- There's a 15% IVA (Impuesto al Valor Agregado, or value-added tax, pronounced "ee-bah") on goods and services in most of Mexico, and although it's supposed to be included in the posted price, most hotels and restaurants in Los Cabos and Baja add it on top, in keeping with U.S. customs. You may find that upper-end properties quote prices without IVA included, while lower-priced hotels include IVA. Always ask to see a printed price sheet, and always ask if the tax is included. This tax is 10% in Los Cabos; as a port of entry, the towns receive a break on taxes. There is a 5% tax on food and drinks consumed in restaurants that sell alcoholic beverages with an alcohol content of more than 10%; this tax applies whether you drink alcohol or not. Tequila is subject to a 25% tax. Hotels charge the usual 15% IVA, plus a locally administered bed tax of 2% or 3% (in many but not all areas), for a total of 17% or 18%. In Los Cabos, hotels charge the 10% IVA plus 2% room tax.
You'll pay 15% VAT while shopping, but the good news is, you can get it back (minus a processing fee), if you shop at one of the high-end retailers participating in Mexico's TAXBACK program (www.taxback.com.mx) and fly out of Los Cabos. Keep purchases and receipts separate from the rest of your packed luggage, and present them with your passport and tourist card at the Taxback office at the airport before leaving.
Mexico imposes an exit tax, which usually is applied to your ticket at purchase, on every foreigner leaving the country.
Time -- The state of Baja California Norte -- from Tijuana to Guerrero Negro -- is on Pacific Standard Time, and Baja California Sur -- from south of Guerrero Negro to Los Cabos -- is on Mountain Standard Time. Mexico observes daylight saving time. The rest of Mexico observes Central Standard Time.
For help with time translations, and more, download our convenient Travel Tools app for your mobile device. Go to www.frommers.com/go/mobile and click on the Travel Tools icon.
Tipping -- Most service employees in Mexico count on tips to make up the majority of their income -- especially bellboys and waiters. Tip bellboys the equivalent of $1 per bag; waiters 10% to 15% of the bill, depending on the level of service. In Mexico, it is not customary to tip taxi drivers, unless they are hired by the hour or provide touring or other special services.
For help with tip calculations, currency conversions, and more, download our convenient Travel Tools app for your mobile device. Go to www.frommers.com/go/mobile and click on the Travel Tools icon.
Toilets -- You won't find public toilets or "restrooms" on the streets in Los Cabos and Baja, but they can be found in bars, restaurants, bus stations, and service stations. They're usually quite clean and well kept, although it's not uncommon for them to lack seats. A basket next to the bowl is your indication to throw paper and such there and not in the water; to avoid clogging pipes, do as the locals do.
Water -- While water in Los Cabos and Baja is generally cleaner and safer than in other destinations in Mexico, locals don't drink the tap water and you shouldn't, either. Purified water is cheap and readily available in any supermarket, convenience store, or gas station. Any water or ice you're served in hotels or restaurants will be purified, but if you have any doubts, ask "es agua purificada?"